‘Overzealous’ nurse blamed for baby’s burn injury at MSJMC

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An official from the Mount St. John’s Medical Center (MSJMC) stated that an ‘overzealous nurse’ had caused a baby’s burn injury.

That was according to MSJMC pediatrician, Dr. Shivon Belle-Jarvis, who participated in a press conference held by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday to clear the air in relation to at least three newborn babies who suffered burns while they were in the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU).

When OBSERVER media first broke the story on March 29th, Karilyn Lewis (one of three mothers whose newborn babies suffered burns at MSJMC), alleged that her daughter had received burns to the left side of her face after a nurse went to warm the baby.

The mother provided photos of the child, who was 11 months old, which showed a prominent scar on her cheek.

However, according to Dr. Belle-Jarvis, this incident occurred after the baby was found to be significantly cold shortly after birth, and the nurse responsible became “overzealous” in her attempts to get the baby warm.

The doctor further explained that babies need to adjust to being outside their mothers’ wombs after nine months and are “at risk of several complications, to include being cold”.

“When babies are cold, they have blue hands and feet, they can be less active, feel less well and, therefore, they are, ultimately, at risk of death,” she said.

“For this case, the nurse was doing her best to ensure that this baby was warmed — recognizing the significant potential impact — being overzealous, negative impact did occur.”

According to the pediatrician, a plastic surgeon will be travelling to Antigua shortly to assist in the restoration of the baby’s burned cheek.

Shortly after Lewis’ story broke, another mother came forward, stating that this past January, her prematurely born baby sustained burns on her fingers hours after she was placed in the NICU at the MSJMC.

Days later, a third mother contacted OBSERVER media with similar claims, after staying silent for almost five years.

According to her, “the burns occurred on December 18, 2014 and I was informed that there was a minor burn to the right hand while they were feeding him intravenously.”

In giving the reasons for the intravenous (IV) burns, Dr. Belle-Jarvis said, “Once you are receiving IV fluids, blood or medication through a vein, there is a risk of swelling, pain and tenderness and the IV needs to be changed often.

“This happens in both adults and children, but specifically our newborns are very much at risk; their veins are very fragile, and they are very vulnerable and sick, so, life-saving measures often include using strong or potent medication which, when running through an already fragile vein, can leak into the surrounding areas.”

Dr. Belle-Jarvis stated that the hospital deeply regretted that these incidents occurred but sought to assure the public and the parents that everything will to provide the best care for the babies.

Moreover, the pediatrician stated that MSJMC will be reviewing its current policies and practices in the wake of this matter and has provided the Ministry of Health will a list of pediatric needs.

After the news broke in March about the babies sustaining burn injuries, MSJMC released a press statement, which the public and the Minister of Health felt was too vague and raised more questions and confusion instead of providing answers.

Subsequently, the Health Minister chastised the hospital during a press conference on April 23, where he said: “I made a request of the management of Mount St. John’s Medical Center to hold a press conference and to come to the public to answer their questions and concerns, that request was not adhered to.

“Instead of coming to the public, Mount St. John’s Medical Center issued a press release, which — I must be very frank — had the potential of creating more doubts about the commitment of transparency.”

 When questioned as to why Mount St. John’s did not hold a press conference, as demanded by the Health Minister when these incidents were first made public, Dr. Belle-Jarvis responded that a multitude of factors needed to be taken into account before any public statement could have been made.

“As an institution, we [must] take several things into account, recognizing that certain things may become legal. We also [must] recognize that the hospital also has a confidentiality policy as it relates to patient care. So, when we respond, we had to be very careful,” she said.

Dr. Belle-Jarvis said that, upon review of the initial statement, the hospital conceded that it was too vague and that was the reason it collaborated with the Ministry of Health to hold Tuesday’s press briefing.

“The press release was chosen initially, but when reviewed it was deemed as being not detailed enough, not answering the questions the public may have and not being as transparent as we wanted it to be,” she said.

Meanwhile, Minister Joseph aggressively defended the hospital staff against any claims of criminal liability.

“There was never an issue of crime or criminal conduct,” he said, adding that by raising this question, “you are implying that a nurse or a doctor would have engaged with malice aforethought to injure a baby – not in our hospital.

“The doctors and nurses at Mount St. John’s do their best to ensure that health care is delivered in a safe and reliable manner,” he added.

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